Friday, September 25, 2020

Happy Natal Anniversary, Ronnie Barker of The Two Ronnies!

Today, we pay tribute to the great comedian, character actor and writer of countless comedy sketches and teleplays (under the name Gerald Wiley) Ronnie Barker, born in Bedford, Bedfordshire on September 25, 1929.



We're enthusiastic fans of Mr. Barker and Mr. Corbett, together as The Two Ronnies, separately and in their movie appearances.





Here are The Two Ronnies with fellow British comedy stalwart Stephen Fry, star of at least three all-time favorite TV shows of the gang at Way Too Damn Lazy To Write A Blog.



Do all of us comedy-centric sorts at Way Too Damn Lazy To Write A Blog enjoy Barker's tongue-twisting wordplay immensely? Yes.





Mr. Barker began his career as a character part specialist in repertory theatre and soon branched out into radio and TV.



The Wiki on Ronnie Barker notes that he made his name on radio by playing a variety of characters demonstrating formidable skill with dialects on Alistair Scott Johnson's BBC radio sitcom The Navy Lark.







Ronnie Barker would be an ubiquitous presence on 1960's English TV and supporting parts on the hit series The Saint and The Avengers followed. The first appearance of The Two Ronnies would be in the satiric sketch comedy series The Frost Report. They co-starred with John Cleese and Marty Feldman was among the show's writers.



The Two Ronnies also did solo projects. Ronnie Barker starred in several series, among them Hark At Barker (which preceded The Two Ronnies and ran from 1969-1970), His Lordship Entertains, Porridge, Open All Hours, Going Straight and Clarence.










PBS remains responsible for giving this writer quite an education in British comedy, including The Two Ronnies, many moons ago.


San Francisco's PBS affiliate, KQED, found that British comedy shows were the most highly rated and anticipated programs in their evening lineups.


Monty Python marathons meant lots of new memberships and enthusiastic renewals for PBS, so the weekly Brit-com nights expanded to include a wide range of non-Python and non-Goon Show series. These included half-hour cutdowns of The Two Ronnies shows.




The British comedy lineups on KQED included everything from The Two Ronnies to Dave Allen At Large to Dad's Army to Frankie Howerd to Rising Damp to shows representing comedians who were then the new generation (Not The Nine O'Clock News). The Two Ronnies followed my favorite, Monty Python's Flying Circus.


A few years later, in the 1990's, the PBS affiliate in San Jose, KTEH, treated San Francisco Bay Area viewers to the next generation of British comedy: Blackadder, The Young Ones, Alexei Sayle's Stuff and Red Dwarf, but, alas, no more Barker and Corbett series.



Bear in mind, with the exception of Are You Being Served, the overwhelming majority of British comedy shows from the 1960's, 1970's and 1980's never aired on United States television. For an idea of how many series were in comedy-drenched British television, take a gander at these three videos (and enjoy the shredding electric guitarist on the soundtracks).







Never dawned on me that Ronnie Barker and Ronnie Corbett were a different genre and generation of entertainment from the Pythons as it did emphatically when Frankie Howerd's Up Pompeii! series ran in the PBS Brit-com lineup, but The Two Ronnies often represented a blend of English music hall traditions with the anarchic sensibility of The Goon Show, Beyond The Fringe and the Pythons.



As Ronnie Barker's background was in repertory theatre, mastering character roles as a player stock company player and Ronnie Corbett's experience was as a variety/vaudeville performer, closer to the music hall sensibility of Eric Morecambe & Ernie Wise than the Pythons, the new school - old school synthesis worked like a charm. And, unquestionably, The Two Ronnies and the Pythons shared a love of extreme silliness delivered with British understatement.



Furthering that comedy yin-yang was the presence of various Pythons and Goons in the writing of the Two Ronnies shows. Some of the funniest Two Ronnies episodes I recall seeing way back when were written by two duos from Monty Python: Graham Chapman & John Cleese, as well as Terry Jones & Michael Palin. Eric Idle receives writing credits on season 1 episodes of The Two Ronnies, along with Jones and Palin. It is entirely possible that programmers at PBS pulled all the Two Ronnies shows that were written by Pythons and showcased them, given the considerable popularity of Monty Python's Flying Circus, Fawlty Towers and Ripping Yarns. Spike Milligan (The Phantom Raspberry Blower of Old London Town serial in season 6) and Tim Brooke-Taylor also were writers on the series.

These days, the BBC cable channels and streaming services demonstrate an aversion to non-current content and show no interest in "classic" shows whatsoever, but a poster on Daily Motion who's either a super fan of the Two Ronnies or a member of the Barker and Corbett families has posted a Two Ronnies playlist featuring 82 episodes of the series.



So it is possible to binge watch the series, even if you do not have a Region-free DVD player, at least at the moment, via this playlist.



There are clips from Two Ronnies shows, as well as slightly truncated 40 minute versions, sans openings and closings, on YouTube. Note: some YouTube posts, such as the following one, are out-of-sync.



Closing today's post with clips from the BAFTA tribute celebrating the six decade career of Ronnie Barker, hosted by Ronnie Corbett, with David Jason, Peter Kay, John Cleese, Gene Wilder and Rob Brydon.



Thanks a million to all of you stiff upper lip merrymakers!

Thursday, September 17, 2020

This Weekend: Niles Essanay Silent Film Museum salutes the Vitagraph and Biograph Studios



Since there are no film presentations to attend, and as this coronavirus pandemic has no end in sight here in the United States, no "nights at the movies" shall transpire for the foreseeable future, it is terrific that some organizations have been recasting their film festivals as online Zoom presentations. One such organization is the Niles Essanay Silent Film Museum.



We are happy they are doing this and not just because otherwise, the gang at Way Too Damn Lazy To Write A Blog would pretty much have nothing to write about and, hence, no posts in the offing.



Since Mr. Blogmeister's writing mojo was last seen stumbling aimlessly in the south end of Uruguay, staggering towards Argentina, where Gomez Addams learned to tango, here's the Niles Essanay Silent Film Museum press release regarding the salutes to the early cinema of Vitagraph and Biograph Studios.


"This weekend, direct from the Edison Theater in beautiful downtown Niles, home of the Niles Essanay Silent Film Museum, there will be a new Zoom presentation, NEW YORK SILENT FILM STUDIOS, PART 2.

The film and documentary links in this tribute to the early movie studios will be available for 24 hours (12:01 am to 11:59 pm) for each day listed - but ONLY that time period."



Saturday's program salutes Vitagraph Studios, also known as the Vitagraph Company of America, founded by J. Stuart Blackton and Albert E. Smith in 1897 in Brooklyn, New York. Vitagraph would be among the very few production companies in the United States that made movies before the turn of the 20th century. While not as advanced as the Lumiere brothers, Alice Guy-Blaché and Georges Méliès, already making movies in Paris, Vitagraph wasted no time in becoming the advance guard of American filmmaking, soon followed by Edwin S. Porter and the Miles Brothers.

The studio's early stars included the first of the rotund "big fella" movie comedians, John Bunny, English character actress Flora Finch, leading man Maurice Costello, Wally Van, Lillian Walker, Mr. and Mrs. Sidney Drew and, in a wide variety of roles, stage comedienne and accomplished mimic Florence Turner.



The tribute to Vitagraph Studios begins with a documentary on the first U.S. silver screen actor to headline his own comedy series, John Bunny, born on September 21, 1863. While not the first American comic to appear in a movie - that would be Ben Turpin - the corpulent, irascible, brilliant and very funny John Bunny was the first bonafide U.S. comedy star of the silver screen.



There will also be Mrs. Lirriper's Lodgers (1912), adapted from a Charles Dickens story, and Diplomatic Henry (1915), one of the Vitagraph films starring our favorite purveyors of sophisticated farce at Way Too Damn Lazy To Write A Blog, Mr. and Mrs. Sidney Drew, a team responsible for numerous outstanding comedy films in the teens. The Drews remained unsurpassed in the "witty and urbane" department until the teaming of William Powell and Myrna Loy two decades later.



Sunday's Salute to the Biograph Studio features a selection of historic D.W. Griffith films, courtesy of The Biograph Project. These short subjects produced in 1908-1910 by Biograph a.k.a. the American Mutoscope and Biograph Company will include Griffith's directorial debut, The Adventures Of Dollie, as well as pioneering films featuring Florence Lawrence a.k.a. The Biograph Girl and moviemaking powerhouses-to-be Mary Pickford and Mack Sennett. The Biograph Project and the Film Preservation Society have been doing incredible work restoring the Biographs and formerly lost films of Douglas Fairbanks, Sr.

OUR PRESENTERS:
Sam Gill is a Film Historian and Board Member of the Niles Essanay Silent Film Museum. Formerly an Archivist with the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Co-Author with Kalton C. Lahue of Clown Princes and Court Jesters. (Editor’s Note: and all around nice guy).

Steve Massa co-hosts the weekly Silent Comedy Watch Party series, live-streamed Sundays on YouTube, and is the author of Rediscovering Roscoe: The Films of "Fatty" Arbuckle, Slapstick Divas: The Women Of Silent Comedy, and Lame Brains and Lunatics: The Good, The Bad and The Forgotten of Silent Comedy.

Tony Susnick is an independent filmmaker, best known for writing and directing the historical documentary The Legend Of The Reno Brothers and John Bunny – Film's First King Of Comedy.
Tracey Goessel is the President and founder of Los Angeles-based Film Preservation Society, which, among other things, is working to restore every one-reel Biograph film directed by D.W. Griffith between 1908 and 1913. She is also the author of The First King of Hollywood: The Life of Douglas Fairbanks, an extremely entertaining read about the innovative and iconic silent movie swashbuckler.


The museum's newsletter writer and, in the halcyon pre-coronavirus days, Saturday night show host Michael Bonham elaborates:

Welcome to our monthly online offering featuring part 2 of pioneering east coast film studios, happening this coming weekend September 19-20. As with our previous shows, the link for the John Bunny documentary will appear with the start of Saturday (12:01 am) and the special film programs and ZOOM codes will become active at the start times of the sessions.

To access the programs, CLICK HERE to go to our home page. Once you're there click on the Upcoming Schedule tab on the top of the page or on the "Vitagraph & Biograph Studios" icon on the left.

We hope you have enjoyed all our online shows so far and we plan to continue them until we can once again open our theater to all our friends. We would like to extend many thanks to Larry Telles, Bill Levesque, and Zack Sutherland for handling the technical end of these shows. Also, a big thank you to Rena Kiehn for putting all the puzzle pieces together and helping make it all happen.

Our theater is undergoing a major renovation at this time and if you would like to help with the cost, please CLICK HERE to make a donation. We appreciate any amount you can give.

Watch for us again next month!



Saturday, September 19th - SALUTE TO VITAGRAPH STUDIO
See John Bunny in his own documentary, streaming free!



John Bunny's international stardom, beginning in 1910, preceded Roscoe Arbuckle and Charlie Chaplin. Frequently referred to as a "Dickensian" comedian, he fit right into the studio's emphasis on sophisticated comedy and films based on literary sources; John Bunny starred in Vitagraph's 1913 version of The Pickwick Papers.



John Bunny appeared in 172 films and was frequently teamed with Flora Finch, stately British actress of stage and screen, in a series termed Bunnyfinches or Bunnygraphs. In films that frequently cast the duo as a combative husband-and-wife, there was palpable tension between the two of them - think William Frawley & Vivian Vance on I Love Lucy or John Belushi & Jane Curtin in Saturday Night Live - and this added a great deal to the comedy. Here's the trailer to John Bunny – Film's First King Of Comedy.



To answer those who find the John Bunny films most entertaining and what to know where the heck can one more of them, will note that in addition to the John Bunny DVD, several John Bunny Vitagraph short subjects in excellent pictorial quality have been uploaded to YouTube by the marvelous archivists of Eye Film Institute. "Bunnyfinches" can also be found in the Silent Comedy Watch Party programs, taking place on Sundays on YouTube.






4:00 pm PT / 7:00 ET (one time only screening)
Short Subjects by Vitagraph Studios, courtesy of USC Hugh M. Hefner Moving Image Archive. Musical accompaniment by the Edison Theater's own Greg Pane. This includes a film starring future Metro Pictures headliner Clara Kimball Young and a hilarious short subject starring Mr. and Mrs. Sidney Drew, the king and queen of sophisticated comedy on the silver screen during the World War I era.

Mrs. Lirriper's Lodgers (1912)
Diplomatic Henry (1915)

Saturday, 5:00 pm PT / 8:00 pm ET - Zoom Link TBA
Zoom presentation with film maker Tony Susnick and film historians Steve Massa and Sam Gill. See the remains of the original Vitagraph Studio in Brooklyn, New York. The studio continued to be in use into the sound era; 1930's Vitaphone short subjects were shot there.




Sunday, September 20th - SALUTE TO BIOGRAPH STUDIO
Experience the early cinema of the American Mutoscope and Biograph Company! Learn how paper prints can be converted to projectable film!

4:00 pm PT / 7:00 ET
One time only screening of Biograph films! Piano accompaniment by Donald Sosin.
Mr. Jones At The Ball (1908), featuring Florence "The Biograph Girl" Lawrence and Mack Sennett.
A Smoked Husband (1908), featuring John R. Cumpsen and Florence Lawrence.
At the Altar (1909)
The Gibson Goddess (1909)
The Adventures of Dollie (1908)
A Child's Impulse (1910), featuring Mary Pickford


5:00 pm PT / 8:00 ET
Zoom presentation by Tracey Goessel, founding member of The Biograph Project. Zoom Link TBA.

.Special thanks go to Dino Everett at USC, Tony Susnick and Tracey Goessel for their generosity and insight on programming the tributes to the Vitagraph and Biograph Studios.

We at Way Too Damn Lazy To Write A Blog respectfully tip our battered yet prized Max Linder top hat - after all, Mack Sennett's Biograph film The Curtain Pole was clearly inspired by the Paris boulevardier's distinctive comedy stylings - and salute the outstanding work of the Niles Essanay Silent Film Museum, Eye Film Institute and all the terrific historians and experts noted in this post.

Sunday, September 13, 2020

Tomorrow on Turner Classic Movies: Leonard Maltin's Short Film Showcase



Tomorrow, our friends at Turner Classic Movies present Leonard Maltin's Short Film Showcase, three dozen short subjects covering a wide variety of subjects and genres. Roger Fristoe has written about the 36 film collection on the TCM website.



First remember reading about a good many of the 36 films TCM shall present Monday in Leonard's terrific book The Great Movie Shorts: Those Wonderful One- and Two-Reelers of the Thirties and Forties.



Have copies of The Great Movie Shorts, first published in 1972, as well as the 1983 trade paperback reissue, Selected Short Subjects. Combined with Leonard's books Movie Comedy Teams, The Disney Films, The Great Movie Comedians and Of Mice & Magic, these formed, along with William K. Everson's books and Clown Princes & Court Jesters by Kalton C. Lahue & Sam Gill, a terrific foundation of classic film education.



Leonard hosts the Short Film Showcase, which will include quite a few unbeatable classic movies - comedies and musicals - near and dear to the diehard film buffs at Way Too Damn Lazy To Write A Blog.



Vitaphone cranked out tons of musical short subjects, starting with the Vitaphone Varieties in 1926 and extending through the Melody Masters big band shorts well into the 1940's.




In the 36 movie lineup: two particularly wonderful musical short subjects produced by Vitaphone in the 1930's and featuring outstanding African-American entertainers.

Short Subject Potpourri #1 kicks off with Smash Your Baggage, an exceptional Vitaphone musical short made in 1932. First heard about this from one of the country's top animators and animation historians, who is also a big time classic movie buff and aficionado of musical short subjects. It did not disappoint.



Small's Paradise Entertainers, a super talented troupe of dancers and musicians, were the featured performers at the Harlem nightclub Small's Paradise. In Smash Your Baggage, entertainers whose day jobs are as redcaps and porters in a train station (which looks like Grand Central) give a performance to raise money for an ill member of their group.



There is spectacular singing and dancing throughout the nine minute running time.



In the red-hot Small's Paradise house band: ace trumpeter Roy Eldridge, future Count Basie Orchestra trombonist Dicky Wells and the legendary "Big Sid" Catlett on drums.






Leonard Maltin's Short Film Showcase also includes The Black Network (1936), featuring one of the early silver screen appearances by the incredible Nicholas Brothers. This is just one of many Vitaphone mini-musicals directed by Roy Mack before he started making Soundies in the 1940's.



In The Black Network, the Nicholas Brothers sing "Lucky Number" and show off their near beyond-belief terpsichorean skills. For more info, check out the Fayard Nicholas website and the entry on The Black Network on the Department of Afro American Research, Arts, and Culture.



Vitaphone also made 2-reel comedies in the 1930's - and two are included in Leonard Maltin's Short Film Showcase.



In this writer's opinion, by far the funniest of the "Big V Comedies" are the talkie "comeback" shorts starring Roscoe "Fatty" Arbuckle.



In Buzzin' Around (1933), the "Prince of Whales" plays a homespun inventor who has developed a substance which keeps china from breaking - at least until a swarm of angry bees and much resultant mayhem intervene. Arbuckle's acrobatic Sennett Comedies and Comique Productions co-star (and nephew) Al St. John and the equally amazing Pete the Pup from Our Gang co-star.



The second Vitaphone comedy short is Ralph Staub's pie-throwing homage to Mack Sennett's silent slapstick comedies, Keystone Hotel (1935). Former Sennett luminaries Ben Turpin, Ford Sterling, Marie Prevost, Hank Mann, Chester Conklin and the Keystone Kops star. Unfortunately, Keystone Comedies stalwart Mack "Ambrose" Swain passed in August 1935 and Roscoe Arbuckle, who would have fit right in and thrown pies with gusto and precision, passed after finishing shooting the last of his six Vitaphone 2-reelers on June 29, 1933.



Not surprisingly, given Mr. Maltin's writings in The Great Movie Shorts and The Great Movie Comedians, there are many films among the 36 chosen produced by Hal Roach in the Short Film Showcase.




There will be a bunch of films starring the great movie comedian who, in addition to Stan Laurel & Oliver Hardy, gets the biggest belly laughs from the crew at Way Too Damn Lazy To Write A Blog, Charley Chase a.k.a Charles Parrott. The lineup will include Whispering Whoopee (1930), Girl Shock (1930), The Pip From Pittsburg (1931), His Silent Racket (1933), Fallen Arches (1933), The Chases of Pimple Street (1934) and Four Parts (1934).



In Four Parts, Charley plays adult quadruplets - a traffic cop, a bus conductor, a taxi driver and a physician - all living under the same roof. He also sings "Auntie's Got Ants In Her Pantry."



Notable in the mix: our favorite of The Charley Chase Talkies here at Way Too Damn Lazy To Write A Blog, The Pip From Pittsburg (1931), the closest Mr. Chase got to replicating the blazing comedy brilliance of his 1924-1926 work, in collaboration with director Leo McCarey, in sound films.



After Thelma and Charley made a wonderful team and worked beautifully together in The Pip From Pittsburg and other short subjects, producer Hal Roach spun Thelma off into her own series. He had been experimenting with female comedy teams for awhile, having teamed comediennes Anita Garvin and Marion "Peanuts" Byron in the silent 2-reelers A Pair Of Tights, Feed 'Em And Weep and Going Ga-Ga, so Thelma was teamed with character actress and comedienne ZaSu Pitts.



The team headlined 17 short subjects, two of which, Asleep in the Feet (1933) and The Bargain of the Century, get the spotlight in the Thelma Todd & Friends segment. The latter, directed and written by Charley Chase, is a brilliant comedy, spotlighting the relationship between ZaSu and Thelma while expressing the duo's character acting mojo.

Patsy Kelly succeeded ZaSu Pitts as Thelma's teammate and foil in 1933, and they would co-star in 21 comedy shorts. One of the very best in this series, Top Flat (1935), will be on the program.

Lesser known Lot Of Fun series are also represented. The Boyfriends comedies were director George Stevens' teenage variation on "Hal Roach's Rascals," featuring the silent era cornerstones of Our Gang, Mary Kornman and Mickey Daniels, as well as the equally prolific silent movie child actress Gertrude Messinger, the future director of Our Gang comedies and Robin & The 7 Hoods Gordon Douglas, and soon to be super-stuntman David Sharpe. Doing much of the comedy heavy lifting throughout the 1930-1932 series: the wonderfully goofy comedian Grady Sutton, known for his stellar work with W.C. Fields. Four entries from The Boyfriends series Air-Tight, Call A Cop, You're Telling Me and Too Many Women will be seen.

Also on hand will be a cross-section further comedy favorites noted at length in The Great Movie Shorts, including Robert Benchley short subjects (How To Sleep, A Night At The Movies), Pete Smith Specialties (the Oscar-nominated Movie Pests) and the musical comedy Apples To You! starring Billy Gilbert as "Pinsky," a flamboyant burlesque impresario hired to add a bit of excitement to a lackluster production of The Barber of Seville.

Bringing the Short Subjects spotlight into the post-World War II era will be two hilarious examples of the Joe McDoakes series, directed by the one, the only Richard L. Bare for Warner Brothers.



George O'Hanlon, known to comedy and animated cartoon fans as the voice of George Jetson, stars as wiseguy regular guy Joe McDoakes. So You Want To Be a Detective (1948) and So You Want to Play the Piano (1956) demonstrate how the Joe McDoakes one-reelers rank among the most consistently funny of movie shorts.



We thank TCM and Leonard Maltin for doing this! Always enjoy re-visiting the terrific musical shorts and very funny comedies of the 1930's and 1940's. We also extend two respectful tips of a Stan & Babe style brown derby to Dave Lord Heath of the extremely informative Another Nice Mess: The Films Of Laurel & Hardy website. We at Way Too Damn Lazy To Write A Blog much appreciate its many levels of research, reviews and frame grabs regarding all things Hal Roach. Have donated to this worthy website before and shall do it again!

Friday, September 04, 2020

Labor Day Weekend Entertainment




Before COVID-19, Labor Day was an excuse to share brews and BBQ with family and friends - or attend such annual events as the Telluride Film Festival or Cinecon. In 2020, nobody's working, everyone's staying home and on a tight budget, so we'll hit the over-used comfy couch and watch movies.



In this blogger's deep past, Labor Day Weekend meant a trip down to Hollywood for the Cinecon, four days of vintage movies. WAY back, many who contributed to classic silent and early sound movies in front of and behind the cameras were still living among us and turned out to be the Cinecon Classic Film Festival's special guests!

This year there will be a online version of the festival, presented via Zoom. Alas, we're late for the opening, which was last night, but there shall be plenty of classic movie programming on Friday and Saturday, starting at 6:00 p.m. EST, 3:00 p.m. PST. Especially look forward to the SATURDAY NITRATE FEVER program, beginning at 7:54 EST - nitrate prints of Leon Errol in Autobuyography (1934) and Speed In The Gay Nineties (1932) starring Andy Clyde. For more info, go to Cinecon.org.

After Cineconline's cornucopia of classic film rarities, we at Way Too Damn Lazy To Write A Blog shall, after enjoying episode 24 of The Silent Comedy Watch Party (featuring the great Harold Lloyd and a special guest - his grand-daughter Suzanne), not watch the 1978 labor drama Norma Rae, but instead opt for SCTV's wonderfully brutal sendup of it. Andrea Martin, one of the greatest comediennes of her (or any) generation, spoofs everything in sight, including well-meaning and ambitious but cheesy and dated 1970's movies. The then-trendy feature films An Unmarried Woman, Norma Rae, The China Syndrome and Kramer Vs. Kramer get skewered, deservedly, in the same sketch.



With the full understanding that strife-filled Labor Day themed movies covering the complex web spun between labor, management, business and American society must be on the bill, we shall revisit documentaries about labor by Barbara Kopple. In the process of producing/directing Harlan County U.S.A. and American Dream, the activist-turned-filmmaker risked her life by embedding her camera into real life labor-management donnybrooks. She scrounged up the shoestring budget for Harlan County U.S.A. by hook and by crook.



A prolific filmmaker and television series director (Homicide: Life On The Streets and Oz), Barbara Kopple brought the cinéma vérité observational approach, inspired by D.A. Pennebaker, Frederic Wiseman and the Maysles brothers, to a slew of documentaries on varied topics. Kopple's camera has a way of revealing the souls of her subjects.



And now for something completely different, but not that different, we think of Sylvester Stallone, who, while riding high with the success of his Rocky series, also starred in a drama patterned on the story of the beginnings of the labor movement - Jimmy Hoffa and the United Auto Workers - in the 1930's.



That would be the Norman Jewison - Sylvester Stallone - Joe Esterhas labor strife epic F.I.S.T. (acronym for Federation of Inter State Truckers).



While as ambitious and over-the-top as those 1970's movies that got the big time razz in the SCTV My Factory My Self sketch were, this nonetheless offers a "more substance (somewhat) less camp" version of Stallone within its enjoyable Hollywood-ized take on 20th century history.



Watching the larger-than-life 2 1/2 hours long Stallone vehicle on Labor Day Weekend invariably leads, the following night, to a viewing of the equally over-the-top Jack Nicholson as Hoffa. Tough to take your eyes of the screen when Nicholson's in command, supported enthusiastically by Armand Assante, J. T. Walsh, John C. Reilly, Robert Prosky, Kevin Anderson and director Danny DeVito. Over-the-top? Who cares!



One indie filmmaker/screenwriter who produced and directed terrific movies, several about historical events - including one, Eight Men Out, beloved by baseball fans such as this writer - is the novelist and jack of all cinematic trades John Sayles, whose 1987 opus about the coal miners' strike in 1920 in the West Virginia hills that would be known as the Battle of Matewan remains most gripping.



Matewan is distinguished by its strict attention to period detail and a refusal to sugar-coat and/or sanitize the subject matter. Sayles, an original presence in filmmaking (Baby It's You, Lone Star, ‎The Secret of Roan Inish, ‎The Brother from Another Planet, Passion Fish), has frequently spoken about the movie, which, unlike many efforts to blend cinema and history, avoids a simplistic "good guys vs baddies" approach.



Alas, we will NOT finish up the Labor Day Weekend entertainment with a ritual screening of the ultimate Labor Day movie, On The Waterfront, either (although Robert Osborne's TCM interview with Eva Marie Saint might be on the bill).



Instead, the gang at Way Too Damn Lazy To Write A Blog, always comedy-centric, shall finish the Labor Day weekend with SCTV's On The Waterfront Again sketch.